At long last I’ve made it back out to the river! It’s been about eight weeks now since my last visit. Today I have a double purpose…the first is to drop off one of my Styrofoam and recycled material sculptures for an annual fund-raiser that the Falls of the Ohio State Park Foundation hosts every year. I’m glad to do this and hope my donation does well in their auction. Despite the years I’ve been making stuff out here it still strikes me that most of my materials are literally trash. I suppose I will never get over that. It seems to me that it takes a certain kind of person who would want to own one of these creations! The other more fun purpose is to check out what’s different along the river and maybe make something new. Immediately, I can see that the hot summer continues to take its toll. At first, it was the relentless heat, but now that is coupled with a serious lack of rain. The river is low and everything looks dry.
Over the course of this summer we have had just enough rain not to be considered a disaster area. This is hardly a ringing endorsement and I find a small laminated notice tacked on to a bulletin board that reinforces how dry it is. I think to myself that some of the people I’ve encountered out here over the years who do shoot off fireworks or build fire pits are not likely to read or heed this warning. When I’m in the park, my preference is to move away from the most public areas and so with my walking stick in hand I head down the Woodland Loop Trail. I’m still not confident enough to want to test my repaired knee too vigorously, but this trail is fairly easy.
The trail is shaded which I welcome since it’s still over 90 degrees out here. I pass many what I would consider late summer blooming plants that have flowered earlier than usual. I did see several stands of tall Pokeweed plants with their black berries, but even these weeds have wilted leaves. I guess what moisture these plants could muster up went into the production of their fruit? These berries are a favorite food of several bird species. In the past, I have used the intensely dark purple juice from Pokeweed berries as a pigment in some drawings I have made. This color, however, is fugitive and ultimately fades in the light. As I walk, one distinctive sound I keep hearing is the tell-tale sound of gray squirrels gnawing on the rock-hard walnuts that are clustered around the few walnut trees along the trail. There’s not much meat inside one of these nuts and it seems like a lot of work for little reward.
Out on the exposed fossil beds the sun is baking, but under the shade of the trees it is still fairly green. Since my last visit, however, I noticed a lot of dropped tree limbs and a few whole trees that have keeled over and appear to be the result of wind damage. I have seen a few birds including two Hairy Woodpeckers and as I walk along the trail I keep getting scolded by Carolina Wrens who resent my intrusion. In the distance I recognize the calls from the Killdeer plovers that are looking for food along the water’s edge. The rarest and most unusual bird, however, is just up ahead.
I’ve only seen a couple of the more common and native Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds this year…and so I was taken aback and delighted to come across what I later identified as Isaac’s Hummingbird (Archilochus isaaci ). To my knowledge, this is the only recorded instance of this Cuban species reaching this park. I’m guessing that Tropical Storm Isaac (purely coincidental, but also appropriate) which is threatening the GOP conference in Tampa Bay at this moment may have blown this rarity our way? Hummingbirds of which there are over 300 hundred recorded species have been known to wander thousands of miles away from their more familiar haunts.
I came across this hummingbird dozing on a fallen branch. It would open its eyes every once in a while and regard me. I kept my movements to a minimum and completely forgot about my aching knee in the process of creating a few images of it. I was able to snap off six pictures before it took off. As you can see, this bird (also known as the Yellow Saberbill) has a bright yellow bill it uses to extract nectar from flowers. Its light blue body, brown wings, silver tail, and whitish-head are diagnostic of this species. I don’t know what it is about the Falls of the Ohio, but I have seen other unique hummers out here before. Digging through the archives…I present two of them again.
This is the ultra rare Arctic Hummingbird appearing at the Falls of the Ohio to sip nectar from the equally scarce Ice Blossoms.
I encountered this Cumberland Greencrest back in 2010 not far from the place that I saw the Isaac’s Hummingbird. Both of these rare hummingbirds stayed in our area for a couple of days before moving on. This is what keeps me coming out here…I just never know what I’ll find or discover! This was a short, but eventful trip and I thank you for tagging along. Here’s another view of the river with the exposed Devonian fossil beds.
POSTSCRIPT: The inspiration for this particular post comes from another WordPress blog I enjoy entitled “Ekostories”. Isaac Yuen is its creator and he’s an aspiring environmental writer. Issac has a talent for weaving stories and making connections about responsible stewardship of our planet. At the time of this writing, Isaac has a wonderful post about a book entitled the “Flight of the Hummingbird” that I think you may enjoy…so please check it out. Here is his link: http://ekostories.com/ Finally, one last peek at this elusive hummingbird checking out a flower blossom.